Wolfenstein: The New Order Review

[As Read on GIO.]

A Fresh Breath

I was one of the few people it seems who didn’t absolutely abhor 2009’s sidestep of a Wolfenstein game, more supernatural focus and all. Now, that’s not to say I loved the game either, but it deserved what love it did get here and there for some of the neat tricks it had. Unlike that game however, The New Order seems to be receiving its due applause and I am equally impressed as others are with its deeper storyline and classic mixed with neo gameplay. Your enemies are mostly the same- facing down numerous Nazis and their corrupt regime vying for world domination, but many things have changed along the way as well- from the actual setting, time period, and mechanics at the very least to the entire world at most.

Machine Games- the newly minted studio composed of a mixture of new blood, former Starbreeze (think Chronicles of Riddick and the Syndicate reboot) Studios designers, and other talented developers heads the charge thanks to Bethsoft’s apparently well-made decision to hand development over to them. The best elements of classic Wolfenstein meld with Starbreeze’s own recognizably unique flavor of gameplay to craft memorable moments and some epic scenarios that in typical Wolfenstein fashion border on insanity yet still feel fresh, exciting, and plausible for the given world. BJ is back and kicking butt as never before, and it all looks graphically great on the now current generation hardware appropriated from the Xbox One.

As the 2009 title was a reinvention of the franchise, so too is The New Order’s more alternate history. The difference is however, I’d much rather see sequels to The New Order’s story than to that of 2009’s. It just strikes a more lovely chord with my enjoyment of the current tile than the past one, and I think the ship has sailed for 2009’s opportunity anyway by now. Familiar faces from previous titles return alongside new, well-written characters and the central focus really puts things in perspective from the first second of the game. Just as Killzone Shadowfall prepared for a ‘new world order,’ so too does Nazi Germany of The New Order, with arguably more success and much more evil machination involved.

BJ Blahbidiblah (Blazkowicz) and some of his heroic and badass cohorts attempt to infiltrate General Dethshead’s base in order to assassinate the villain circa 1946, but things go downhill from there. Needless to say without ruining everything completely, BJ suffers tremendous head injuries and goes into a coma, the assassination attempt failing and his friends’ fates unknown for the next nearly fifteen years… And thus begins the dawn of The New Order (in name and in literal fashion). Conveniently enough for our resistance fighting friends, BJ snaps out of his long-term daze just in time to wreak havoc upon his Nazi captors and rejoin the ongoing fight. Thankfully, BJ the Vegetable is no more, and BJ the Badass takes back over the reins.

The campaign itself is littered with easter eggs for players to find- most of which refer to other Bethesda/ID titles such as Fallout 3’s Vault 101 and the original Wolfenstein’s very first level (like the Doom level in Rage). The campaign is also lengthy and enjoyable, actually having a decent story for the first time in a long while as well, and being able to enjoy both the destructive badassery of BJ’s exploits as well as the more sedated and enjoyable nostalgic callings as well. Also, as the original Wolfenstein level goes- the secret areas are thoroughly intact as well, so it is an entirely faithful recreation and very cool gimmick moment.

Throughout the sixteen or so chapters of gameplay and nearly twenty-four hours of campaign carnage, players can find plenty of reasons to replay the game- such as secrets, upgrades, and even changes in the story alterable through certain decisions. None of these are so integral as to force a second playthrough, but it is advised if you want to see everything you possibly can. For the better part of the story you’ll be fighting with your resistance buddies, infiltrating secret bases, blowing up mechanized Nazi war machines, and flying to the moon- yes you heard correctly. Only in a Wolfenstein game can all of these things come together and still be better than Duke Nukem Forever. Teehee, bad game jokes.

It also probably helps that the environments are all so different and the story so colorful that the game stays fresh the entire way through and isn’t just a rehashing of every other title (like Call of Duty’s five hours of hell is now reduced to pretty much every time). It’s good to see a fresh yet familiar face or two. Machine Games does a great job of inserting homages when and where they are appropriate but also of maintaining that The New Order is its own new game, not bogging players down in the past’s details if they don’t want to be reminded. Some of the Strabreeze genes have worked their way into the formula as well and keep things as varied and fresh as you’d expect too.

BJ’s very character has more depth than ever before as well, which is great even if in the face of all the mayhem he’s causing it comes off as a bit too little too late and shallow here and there. That’s hardly a major issue in my book however, so it’s mostly to be ignored at worst. Some other additions include the vast variety of finishing and silent takedown moves that BJ can employ when he isn’t mowing through hundreds of enemies and for some reason wants to employ stealth- actually a viable factor for the first time pretty much in the Wolfenstein series, and a fun one to attempt as well.

Combat is also yours to make of it what you will. The combat is excellently controlled and paced when it needs to be and breakneck rampaging destruction when you want it to be. The game itself is most enjoyable on higher difficulties as it presents a challenge and makes the AI reactions more aware and realistic, however it also feels great to be a god among men and mow through the Nazi hordes with ease on easier settings. You still have the option to dual wield chainguns with horrendously enjoyable results or to take a simple shotgun and riddle your foes with buckshot in a more measurable rampage, holding back from your true potential a tad bit.

However, don’t assume that there is no viable strategy other than always rushing in guns blazing simply because this is a Wolfenstein title. That particular strategy can easily get you through the game, but you can also employ equal portions of stealth and procede much faster throughout the story if you know where to look for the conniving Nazi leaders who summon more enemies to the playing field, or for secret entrances and exits. Taking down certain enemies first ensures that you only have to fight a few more, and not the nigh endless horde- unless of course you’re into that sort of thing, in which case you can help yourself to as much destruction and gore as you wish.

If you want to mix things up between stealth and rampaging about the map, there is also a simple cover and fire mechanic to employ, however it isn’t anything particularly unique so it’s hardly going to stand out. Experimentation is encouraged further however by the previously mentioned upgrades accessible via perks collected after completing specific tasks. These upgrades aren’t really necessary for the bulk of the game as your foes aren’t ever overly difficult to defeat except on the hardest setting, however they do make things noticeably easier and are helpful to earn on your first playthrough before completing the second.

There are plenty of differing enemy types from mechs to ground troops and anything in between, making the equally diverse environments sport incredibly diverse enemies to mow through. Since everything is rendered in gorgeous detail, these varied enemies look pleasing to the eye even if they die just the same as others. The AI isn’t the greatest, but that’s not because they are stupid and run into your fire or anything- they simply run away sometimes or hide at the weirdest times as well. They aren’t incredibly hard to defeat in most common instances, but bosses can prove difficult to master when tackling head-on.

For once, I’m actually glad Bethesda and crew didn’t seek to employ a multiplayer component within this title as they have with several other games with decent but not renowned multiplayer modes. While I have no doubt it could’ve been unique and pretty fun to play on such varied maps and with interesting weapons, I still think it would have detracted from the overall enjoyability and replayability of the single player campaign itself, which would really be a shame. Plus, gaming could use some purely single player titles again, seeing as every series tries to incorporate decent but not excellent multiplayer nowadays (Assassin’s Creed, I’m looking at you).

The New Order is definitely a step up from 2009’s Wolfenstein title, and is one of my most favorite games yet released this year, boding well not only for the franchise’s future but that of games on this console and other next generation/current generation platforms. Also, now I’m looking forward to what comes next from the talent pool over at Machine Games…

Concept: The Nazis take the world by force, as if they’d have done it any other way. So naturally BJ and co take them down with the help of some very big guns, guts, and a nuke…or three.

Graphics: Everything looks gorgeous, from enemy designs to the way the sun glints off of any metallic surface. It’s only done right one way, and that’s apparently on the Xbox One in this case. Move aside other shooters, this one looks almost as good as graphical beasts like Shadowfall on the PS4 even.

Sound: Easily the weakest part of the game, the soundtrack isn’t what it used to be and doesn’t have any of the electric synth tracks that made the original game so classy and enjoyable, opting instead for metal inspired guitar riffs clanging alongside your sowing of chaos and destruction. Not that you’ll be paying much attention to the music anyway.

Playability: As idiotic as the AI can be and easy to dispatch, the gunplay and most mechanics are fairly solid, enjoyable, and contribute greatly to the experience as a whole. It truly is a gun game in every aspect, and that’s alright.

Entertainment: It has its incredibly unique moments, its tried and proven to work moments, and a few where you just don’t know exactly what the hell is going on. Namely, it’s a Wolfenstein game through and through.

Replay Value: Moderately High.

Overall Score: 8.5

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